Monday, June 7, 2010

Liturgy: The Holy Qurbana

Among the ancient Churches there is one common denominator that unites them in some fashion. The commonality is Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and His Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist in the Divine Liturgy. There are many different Rites among the ancient Churches, but all of them have this representation of the Holy Sacrifice of Our Lord in their liturgies. While the Roman Catholic Church is the only to have actually attempted to dogmatically define and explain philosophically how it is that Our Lord is substantially present on the altar without the actual appearances of the bread and wine changing,  all of the ancient Churches hold to a change in the substance of the bread and wine. This is a fact among all the ancient Churches, both Catholics and Orthodox. (The Eastern Catholic Churches and some Orthodox churches refer to the same definition given on Transubstantiation.)

One Syrian Liturgy that is not well known is the Holy Qurbana or Qurbono. The word Qurbana or Kurbono in the Syriac means offering, sacrifice or oblation. There is really no direct translation to English, it is kind of a combination of these meanings. But it fits in with the theology of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which is a commonly used name for the Latin Rite Catholic Liturgy. This Liturgy is of Eastern Syrian origin and Syrian Churches like the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church offer what they call the Holy Qurbana.

Sacrifice is a common aspect of authentic Christian worship and has been since Christians began to live Christ's command, "Do this in remembrance of me." Of course, those of the ancient true faith know that remembrance is much more than a mental flashback giving one a nostalgic reflection on Our Lord's passion death and resurrection. No, it is a representation, or a re-entering into that very same mystery of Our Lord's sacrifice on Calvary. The Syrian Orthodox tell us, " In this past time, present time and the future time are all combined." The priest chants the following giving a similar example of the text used in the Byzantine Catholic Rite which exemplifies the actual sacrifice that is taking place in the Liturgy. "We offer this sacrifice before Thee, O Father Who art invisible to the Angels and Archangels, Before Thy Beloved Son, Who manifested Himself to the world by His love, and before Thy Holy Spirit, Who has sanctified the world by His abiding and before Thy Holy Altar where Thy Divinity is proclaimed and holy Trinity made manifest."

The Liturgy, while not unlike the other ancient Liturgies has some unique qualities about it that may seem a bit strange to Westerners. Take a look at the video below. You will see fans being used with bells on them during the Liturgy. It looks a bit strange to those who are not familiar with it. The fan is called the Marvahso, and the bells on them are rung during parts of the Liturgy to symbolize the presence of the angels about them and the sound of their fluttering wings. Although there are many diverse practices among the ancient Church liturgies, we are all united by Christ in the one and same sacrifice of the Our Lord and Savior on Calvary.

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